Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

a minority opinion on the Manning matter

The news is full of the sentence handed down to Chelsea Manning (nee Private Bradley Manning) after a trial in a military court. I find myself out of sympathy with much of the commentary on the internet.Too many folks are too glibly calling to free a fellow who seriously violated the law. In my opinion,the wholesale, irresponsible release of gigabytes of material properly designated as confidential was unjustified,and should properly be treated as a crime. I say this though I recognize and sympathize with the revulsion Private Manning must have felt at seeing some of the material.

In my mind, my sympathy diminishes because his breaches of confidentiality were not confined to addressing war crimes, but were instead a fairly wholesale and indiscriminate effort to simply cause as much embarrassment and disarray as he could manage to cause. Had he limited himself to just the video about alleged atrocities and prisoner treatment, the issue would be wholly different.

I do believe that some governmental secrecy is essential, and respectfully assert that a contrary view is a bit naive. I also believe that since the days of the Alien and Sedition Acts, U.S. governments have been over-reaching in the name of national security. So I understand a natural urge to address that. Still, I find myself thinking that Private Manning and Edward Snowden are neither traitors nor heroes, but instead someplace in between (assuming, of course, that Mr Snowden did not receive foreign government monetary support in his efforts).

When I heard the range of sentences for Manning, I was dismayed. Though I think his conduct was a serious matter, several decades in prison seemed a daunting penalty. However, now that I understand that military prison sentences, like state but unlike federal sentences, involve a lot of credit for "good time served", I am a bit less troubled. It sounds like Manning will be out of prison before he has to serve a decade.

Still, I hate it when anyone must go to prison, though I support the use of prisons and think they are a sad necessity. I am reminded of what a wise fellow said once. When commenting on a con man richly deserving of prison, he said in substance 'Deserved it? Yes. Lots of people deserve to go to prison. But have you ever been there? It's a horrid place. It's not something to wish on anyone' I do not relish the idea of anyone in prison, nor of Private Manning.

Now drums will beat and internet ink will flow, and the puzzle of Chelsea Manning, once known as Bradley Manning still feels entirely unsolved.
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